This feeling of the uncanny is the most distinct and explicit. It is the feeling of somehow knowing the unknowable; bearing information that, by all logical explanations, should not be available to us. It seems that John also has this premonition because he runs out of the house with no warning. Once outside, he runs immediately to the location of his daughter without any outside implication of where she might be. Again, he seems to somehow know the unknowable. The next occurrence of the uncanny is the Venice restaurant when Laura first meets the two elderly sisters.
Before the interaction, the viewer can tell that John is sensing something, or that he is especially unsettled by the two women. Again here it is not clearly spelled out that he is have a psychic connection, because it could be read that he just noticed the women staring at him. This is another essential element of the uncanny. It must be rooted in the sense of reality. In Tzvetan Todorov’s study on the fantastic in literature, he outlined that the implied reality of a situation is what separates the uncanny from the fantastic or the marvelous.
“In works that belong to this genre, events are related which may be readily accounted for by the laws of reason, but which are, in one way or another, incredible, extraordinary, shocking, singular, disturbing or unexpected, and which thereby provoke in the character and in the reader a reaction similar to that which works of the fantastic have made familiar. “3 As Laura follows the sisters into the bathroom, the audience sees that they are holding hands. This offers ideas of incest and homosexuality, both uncanny.
But this is rooted in logic quickly as the viewer realizes that one of the sisters is blind. The blind sister then proceeds to tell Laura that she has had a vision of her deceased daughter sitting between her and John at the restaurant. This is uncanny because we are presented with a reversal of what is common. The blind woman here is the one with the vision. It is made especially potent by the temporary blinding of the other sister. The motif of the blind with sight and the sighted unable to see repeats itself throughout the film. This scene also exemplifies much of the important symbolism in the film.
The main goal of the symbolism in this film is to represent John’s repression of the death of his daughter and the turmoil that this causes in his unconscious. Freud believed that the arousal of any type of fear or anxiety was caused by the recurrence of something repressed. “Uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression. ” In this sense, John’s entire journey through the film can be seen as uncanny.
In John Izod’s analysis of Don’t Look Now he draws a specific connection between glass and/or water to the unconscious. He says “Its nature as a medium alien to, but not absolutely impenetrable by humankind makes it a ready surrogate for the unconscious. “4 This connection becomes apparent in the scene with the women in the bathroom. The blind sister, Heather, seems to look directly at Laura, but only through the reflection in the mirror. She then proceeds to describe her psychic vision of Christine. The viewer watches this all in the mirror, from behind glass.
This implies that Heather has easy access to her unconscious and, in turn, to psychic abilities. John, who the viewer also recognizes through his earlier premonition as having some sort of psychic ability, is much less likely to connect with his unconscious. This is why he is rarely portrayed through glass or water. Even when his daughter was drowning, he hesitates for quite some time before going under the water. He stares almost knowingly into the water, with a look of terror on his face. This illustrates his repression of his daughters death and his ignorance of his unconscious.
As Laura talks with the women in the bathroom, John stares out a window into the water and has a flashback about he and his wife leaving their home in England. Instead of fading back to John, the flashback fades into a close-up of heather’s blind eyes staring out at the viewer. This is uncanny because it disrupts the linear processes of narrative that would logically return us to John. It can be viewed as a violation of the mind or a disruption of the self, because as the viewer is shown this flashback, it is aligned specifically with John. We are seeing what he is seeing, or thinking in his mind.
Being confronted with Heather’s image before we resolve the vision with John can clearly be viewed as an invasion. Like the majority of Freud’s theories, he believed that the infantile and childhood state is crucial to one’s development of fears and feelings of the uncanny. He believes that it is at this point that one is most in touch with their own unconscious. Not coincidentally, Roeg presents the viewer with almost an exact analogy of this idea in the film. After Laura faints in the restaurant, John goes to check on her and finds her in a room with a large window. On the other side of the window is a large group of children playing.
If one is to read the symbolism of glass and water as the passage to the unconscious then this scene wholly supports Freud’s statements about infancy, the uncanny, and the unconscious. On the one side of the glass, the side that John not only can’t get to, but in fact completely ignores, is children, the embodiment of the unconscious. On the other side of the glass is John and Laura, but Laura does not ignore what is on the other side of the glass. She plays with and watches the children through the glass. This is further subtle hints at John’s refusal to confront his own unconscious.